Bonefish are the gateway drug to flats fishing. Once you catch one, you can’t get enough, and you want to go after permit and tarpon, and then you’re hooked.”
Those were the words of Dr. Aaron Adams, Conservation Director of the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust on an episode of my Higher Calling Wildlife podcast.
In an article called Chasing The Flats Slam in Texas Fish & Game I admitted to telling Adams after recently catching my first bonefish in Florida’s Biscayne Bay, that I had already booked a trip to catch permit, he said, “I told you so.”
Adam’s statement made perfect sense to me. I’ve never done a drug in my life and have always found the high of hooking into a big fish or calling in a turkey plenty for me.
The Flats Slam consists of the bonefish, tarpon, and permit, fish which spend some of their time in the deeper ocean but most of their life cycle in the flats.
Tarpon can be found in all states along the Gulf Coast in catchable numbers although the main fisheries are Florida, southern Texas and a small section of the Louisiana Coast.
What’s interesting is there seems to be evidence that with warming Gulf temperatures, more bonefish and permit are showing up in odd places.
Bonefish: Bonefish are arguably the fastest-moving, hardest-fighting pound-for-pound fish on the planet. They are the stuff of fly fishermen’s dreams as stalking them on the clear flats in places like Florida, Belize and The Bahamas is a mega challenge.
Did you know there are a few bonefish in Texas?
The state record weighed 3.77 pounds and was caught by angler C.W. Morris in 1977. The listing says “Gulf of Mexico” which probably means he caught it in the surf somewhere, but I have not been able to track down the exact location.
One of Capt. Brian Barerra’s clients caught a small bonefish in the South Padre area a few years ago. Capt. Joey Farrah told me one of his clients hung into one in the lower end of the Middle Coast.
In preparation for this article, I contacted Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s coastal fisheries division and found out that since 1994, they have records of catching 16 bonefish in their net surveys. The catches were all in the Aransas Channel, Aransas Bay, Corpus Christi Bay, Upper Laguna Madre, and Lower Laguna Madre. They were all less than four inches in length.
They’re nowhere near a common catch, but they are present in Texas waters.
Permit: Quite a few anglers think they’ve caught a permit in Texas, but are disappointed to find out it was a southern pompano (a close relative) or even a jack crevalle (similar shape and colors).
Permit are stunning flats species that get big. They are said to be the moodiest of flats slam species and will often ignore the most perfectly placed lure or fly.
Permit are also present in Texas in small numbers.
Jared Guinn caught the Texas state record in the Gulf of Mexico in 1993. It only weighed 1.50 pounds. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of permit close to this size caught in the Galveston Bay complex in recent years, from very informed anglers.
One of Capt. Brian Barerra’s young clients caught a permit in the South Padre area. It wasn’t a monster but in a very real way, it was the catch of a lifetime.
Have you caught a permit or a bonefish outside of Florida? If so, email your reports, pics and videos to email@example.com.
We would love to have the opportunity to use these photos to rasie awareness of these great fish.
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